With Miroslav Klose confirmed as a Lazio player, Everton manager David Moyes has been forced to continue his search for a striker a little longer. In truth, the Scot’s quest for a reliable – and cheap – goal scorer is likely to be a saga that runs throughout the summer.
Klose could have proved the answer to Moyes’ prayers. Scorer of 167 goals in a club career stretching back to 1999 and 61 more for the German national team, including 14 in three World Cups to leave him the tournament’s joint-second highest scorer in history, Klose is as prolific as free transfers get. Players of that calibre rarely enter the freebie market and with Everton’s finances as tight as ever, Moyes was understandably interested, but since Klose has been pictured parading a scarf of Lazio’s light blue instead of Everton’s darker shade, the hunt must go on. A local newspaper story last week said the Toffees were not interested in Jay Bothroyd, another free transfer, while Peterborough’s Craig Mackail-Smith, strongly linked to a host of Premier League clubs of which Everton were just one, seems destined for newly-promoted Norwich City. It may still be early in the summer but recent history suggests that Everton start the Premier League season best when new faces arrive early.
In summer 2006 Everton made three transfer moves early in pre-season, signing Andy Johnson, Joleon Lescott and Tim Howard before July 2, with Johnson arriving as early as May 30. The outcome was a seven game unbeaten streak at the start of the season. A year later, when Everton’s first signing – Phil Jagielka – did not come until July 4, and his fellow 2007 arrivals Leighton Baines and Yakubu did not join until the season was underway, Everton went only two games before falling to defeat. For a side often maligned for their slow starts to the season the uncertainty generated by transfer gossip that runs into the new campaign and supporter unrest that increases with each passing day a new signing fails to materialise could be a prime cause. It is, however, largely out of the manager’s hands, as sheer hard work and diligent scouting is not always enough to seal a transfer. Money, or the lack thereof, is more of a determining factor. Indeed, 2006-07 was the last time Everton splashed the cash without an equally big departure or two first.
The potential sales of Yakubu and Joseph Yobo – both attracting admiring glances from clubs in Turkey – should generate some much-needed funds, and the fee received for Steven Pienaar in January was never spent – not on players, at least. John Heitinga’s comments regarding how much he misses European football could be the latest step in a saga almost as tortuous as Everton’s search for a striker, that of the Dutchman’s thinly-veiled desire to move on. Should the World Cup finalist finally get his wish, having agitated for 12 months now, another £6m or more would be added to Moyes’ kitty, but with the future of the possible departures unlikely to be resolved until nearer the end of the transfer window, the real cost could be to Everton’s early season form.